SRJC women’s soccer: going for the goal

James L. Alban , Staff Writer

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It’s 2:45 p.m. on a Friday afternoon out on Cook Sypher field, and the SRJC women’s soccer team is preparing for its first game of the 2010 season, which is only four days away. The practice was supposed to be over at 2:30 p.m.

Exhausted from an intense practice, the women are practically melting in between the sun and the artificial turf as they run a simulated scrimmage against each other, but they press on, running faster and harder because they are motivated.

What motivates them?

Perhaps, it was the bitter end to the 2009 season, in which the Lady Bear Cubs finished their near perfect season with a heartbreaking loss to conference rival, Consumnes River, in the second round of the playoffs. Or maybe, they are motivated by a completely refurbished roster, with 26 fresh faces and only three returning players.

The motivation could come from their coach, Emiria Salzmann, whose intense, yet compassionate coaching style has earned her the respect and commitment of her players.

“Emiria knows so much about the game. When our energy is low, she is always there picking us up, picking up the intensity. She is the best coach I have ever had,” says forward Sarah Halcomb, one of the three sophomore players from last season.

Although the team might not acknowledge it, and probably won’t talk about it this early in the season, their true motivation is the target on their backs. Now, these targets aren’t visible, but they’re there, and they say back-to-back-to-back Big 8 Conference champions.

The SRJC women’s soccer team enters this season as the three-time defending conference champions and all the teams in the league are quite aware.

“Everyone wants to kill us,” said Katie Deneau, 2009 All Big 8 Conference player and returning center midfielder.

But before the team can even think “four-peat,” the girls must start with the fundamentals. With a new roster, coach Salzmann has her team practicing the basics, learning how to train hard, and developing their team’s identity.

“Playoffs are not our initial goal; our initial goal is first coming together as a team,” Salzmann said.

Salzmann led her team to the post-season in each of her first three seasons as SRJC head coach. Salzmann said if she has learned anything from her post-season experiences, it’s knowing that she and her team are doing good things.

Along with managing injuries, establishing a rigorous training environment, practicing for games, and being in situations where they have to win, the team is better prepared for big games because they are used to that intensity, Salzmann said.

“Emiria makes us feel like we are the most prepared team, and it makes us believe we cannot lose,” Halcomb said.

As for the new roster, Salzmann thinks it’s sometimes hard to build off a season when the majority of players are new, but on the other hand, it is fun because it allows her to be more creative, developing a new personality each year and making the team unpredictable to opponents.

What separates this team from last season’s is the commitment and heart, which is far more important than skill, said Deneau, who is taking her place as one of the team leaders.

“I want to be a positive role model to my new teammates, and make sure everyone is learning. As a returner, it is my duty to help pick the team up,” Deneau said.

As for Salzmann’s expectations this season, they are no different than any other year. She expects the players to be committed, to be disciplined, to work hard and most importantly to respect each other as teammates.

“I want them to know what it means to train as a high level athlete, and be rewarded for it by winning,” Salzmann said.

So as the SRJC women’s soccer team’s extended practice winds down, coach Salzmann blows her whistle ending the scrimmage. As a team they begin to clean up the practice field, putting the soccer balls away, moving the nets off the field and in the back of their minds, a state championship.

The women’s dedication and their willingness to learn, is evident in the beads of sweat running down their faces. The team gathers around their coach, their mentor and most importantly their friend, for a few last words to end the practice before she sends them home for a weekend of rest and to get ready for the start of the season, targets and all.

The team began their season at 12:30 p.m., Aug. 24 at Sonoma State, and the team’s first game at SRJC is at 4 p.m., Sept. 14 against De Anza.

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